Centipede grass is a warm-season grass with an apple-green color. It is slow growing and requires less fertilizer and mowing than other grasses. It is more tolerant of shade than Bermuda grass but less than St. Augustine.
This article will cover everything you need to know about centipede grass fertilizer, let’s get started!
Does Centipede Grass Need Fertilizer?
Centipede grass needs less fertilizer than other types of grass. However, it still needs more nutrients than the soil can provide without additional fertilizer. Without additional fertilizer, centipede grass will not grow well. However, too much fertilizer will lead to “centipede decline,” brown patches, and to the death of the grass.
Types of Fertilizer
Fertilizer comes in many forms. Here are the types of fertilizers usually used on centipede grass.
Liquid fertilizer is usually applied to a lawn with a hose-end sprayer. Some liquid centipede fertilizers come in packages you just attach to the hose and spray. Others have to be put in your own hose-end sprayer.
Either way, they are applied with water by turning on the hose, opening the valve on the sprayer, and sweeping the fertilizer from side to side over the entire lawn. Be careful not to spray on one spot too long and not to miss any. You don’t want any embarrassing light spots on your lawn.
These fertilizers start working immediately but typically have to be reapplied frequently.
Water Soluble Fertilizer
Water-soluble fertilizers are granules that dissolve completely in water. Most of the lawn fertilizers are designed to be put in a hose-end sprayer and applied. A few are mixed, then sprayed. They have the same pros and cons of a liquid.
Granular fertilizer can look like little rocks or be pellets or pills. This type of fertilizer is spread with a spreader. There are two common types of spreaders: push spreaders and hand-cranked spreaders. Most lawn fertilizer has the spreader setting for a wide range of spreader brands on the package, so you know the right setting to use for their fertilizer.
Granules can be quick release, which starts working immediately, or slow release. Many lawn granular fertilizers are a combination, so the lawn gets nutrients immediately and over a longer period of time.
Slow-release fertilizer has a coating on it that breaks down over time. As the coating breaks down, nutrients are released into the soil. To be effective as a slow-release fertilizer, at least half the nitrogen should be released slowly.
Organic Versus Synthetic Fertilizer
Synthetic fertilizers are made in the laboratory, usually out of petroleum products. They feed the plant directly and can be made much more powerful than organic fertilizers. They are usually cheaper than organic fertilizers, too.
However, there is concern about the environmental toll that synthetic fertilizers cause. They do not feed the soil microbes, which can leave the soil sterile after a few years.
Organic fertilizers contain only ingredients found in nature. Not all natural ingredients are allowed in organic fertilizers. There is a list of ingredients that are allowed. The manufacturers of organic fertilizers submit their fertilizer to a certifying agency such as the USDA, which certifies it only contains organic ingredients on the list of allowed ingredients. Just because a fertilizer is made of all-natural ingredients does not mean it is allowed to be called organic.
Organic fertilizer feeds the soil microbes, which break it down into compounds the plants can use. This takes more time to work than synthetic fertilizers but is thought by many to be gentler on the environment.
What Should I Consider When Choosing Centipede Grass Fertilizers?
Here are some things I consider when buying fertilizers.
Time of year
Is the fertilizer intended for the spring and summer, or is it intended for fall? Fall fertilizers usually have a lot more potassium in them than spring and summer fertilizers. This is not as true of centipede grass fertilizers as it is for, say, Bermuda grass.
Centipede grass only needs one to two pounds of actual nitrogen a year, usually broken up into spring and late summer/early fall applications. Supplemental applications of iron can be used to keep the lawn green, but it will never be as green as Bermuda grass.
Centipede grass doesn’t need one specific ratio of NPK, but it is intolerant of phosphorus, so most centipede-friendly fertilizers have only nitrogen and potassium in them. A common ratio is 15-0-15.
Money is tight for most of us, and it is always tempting to buy the cheapest fertilizer you can find. However, I find cheap fertilizers are not as effective as premium ones. Premium ingredients are more bioavailable.
Some cheap fertilizers use sewage sludge as the nitrogen source, and I don’t want to apply that to my yard. Buy the best fertilizer you can afford, and your lawn will thank you.
Top 5 Best Fertilizers For Centipede Grass
Here are my picks for the best fertilizers for centipede grass.
1. Simple Lawn Solutions Superior 15-0-15 – Best Liquid Fertilizer for Centipede Grass
Simple Lawn Solutions Superior 15-0-15 Liquid Fertilizer Nitrogen & Potash Lawn Food is my pick for the best liquid fertilizer for centipede grass.
The NPK ratio is 15-0-15, and it also contains humic acid to condition the soil. Better soil grows better grass. Centipede grass is very sensitive to high phosphorus levels, so it is important to use a fertilizer without phosphorus on it.
This fertilizer is for your centipede grass if you want to enhance the green color, improve turf vigor and thickness, and fix any nitrogen and potassium deficiencies.
If you live where there is a ban on using phosphorus on your lawn, this product is safe to use. The liquid is especially effective if you have sandy soil. The fertilizer is absorbed by the grass rather than going into the soil, where it can leach out.
Simple Lawn Solutions is a family business, and its products are made in the United States of America. The owners have over 25 years of experience in the commercial turf industry and do extensive research and development before releasing a product.
The package for Simple Lawn Solutions Superior 15-0-15 Liquid Fertilizer Nitrogen & Potash Lawn Food is ready to attach to your hose. At that point, turn on the water, open the valve on the sprayer, and apply the fertilizer evenly to all the grass. You can turn off the sprayer when moving between lawn areas so you do not waste the spray.
I prefer granules to liquids when fertilizing. I have a hard time evenly applying liquids, so I have areas that got a little much and areas that didn’t get enough and are a lot lighter than the rest. However, since centipede grass is often the best lawn choice for sandy areas, liquids make sense.
The fertilizer is absorbed by the grass blades. Fertilizers applied to the soil may tend to leach out of sandy soil, so if the fertilizer is absorbed before it reaches the soil, you have less waste.
The downside is the fertilizer may not last as long as a slow-release granular fertilizer. This can be a problem since overapplication of fertilizer can cause a centipede lawn to experience “centipede decline” and die.
I think Simple Lawn Solutions Superior 15-0-15 Liquid Fertilizer Nitrogen & Potash Lawn Food is moderately priced and 32 ounces treats 3,200 square feet. I would use it if I had sandy soils or if my soil had a potassium deficiency.
- Easy to use
- Absorbed by the blade
- May not last as long as granular fertilizer
2. Espoma Organic All Season Lawn Food 9-0-0 – Best Organic Fertilizer for Centipede Grass
Espoma Organic All Season Lawn Food 9-0-0 Natural & Organic Lawn Food is my choice for the best organic fertilizer for centipede grass.
This fertilizer has an NPK ratio of 9-0-0 and also includes calcium and sulfur. In addition, the fertilizer is inoculated with beneficial soil microbes to improve the ability of your plants to absorb it.
According to Espoma, this fertilizer lasts up to three times the time of conventional fertilizers. The slow-release fertilizer will not burn the lawn if used as directed. It is also less likely to leach out of the soil than synthetic fertilizers.
This fertilizer is safe for people and pets. It is made with solar energy, so is better for the environment than conventional fertilizers.
Espoma has been producing organic fertilizers since 1929. They manufacture their line of fertilizers and soil conditioners in the United States of America. Espoma uses premium ingredients for all their fertilizers.
Espoma Organic All Season Lawn Food 9-0-0 Natural & Organic Lawn Food should be applied to a dry lawn that has been recently mown. Set your spreader to spread six pounds per 1,000 square feet if you leave your lawn clippings on the lawn. If you remove the lawn clippings, spread twelve pounds per 1,000 square feet.
Go up and down the lawn in a north-to-south direction until you cover the lawn with fertilizer. Then go back and forth in a west-to-east direction until you have covered the lawn. Water the lawn after spreading the fertilizer.
I like Espoma products. Given the choice, I am more likely to pick up something they made than something from other manufacturers. I like that the organic products are long-lasting and gentle.
Espoma uses premium ingredients and no sewer sludge. The bag lists the spreader settings for several brands of spreaders, so you don’t have to guess which one to use.
This fertilizer is pricey, but that is not unusual for an organic product. The process of certifying a product organic costs money, and the premium ingredients required cost more, too. I think the higher cost is worth the money to use an organic product that is gentle on my lawn.
While this fertilizer is not developed specifically for centipede lawns, it does work on centipede grass. Nitrogen without phosphorus and potassium helps avoid centipede decline if you have soils high in phosphorus and potassium.
If your soil is low in potassium, you should choose another fertilizer. The Fertilome (10767) Centipede Lawn Fertilizer 15-0-15 will work better for your lawn in that case.
3. Scotts 21701 Turf Builder Starter Food for New Grass – Best Starter Fertilizer for Centipede Grass
Scotts 21701 Turf Builder Starter Food for New Grass is my pick for the best fertilizer to use when starting a centipede lawn.
The NPK ratio is 25-25-4. New lawns need phosphorus and are generally exempt from phosphorus restrictions. The nitrogen builds healthy cells and gives the plant the nutrients it needs to grow lush and thick. The phosphorus helps build healthy roots, and the potassium helps plants develop vigor and be healthy enough to resist disease, heat, and drought.
Scotts claims that lawns fed this fertilizer grow 70% thicker and 35% faster than untreated lawns. One three-pound bag covers 1,000 square feet of lawn.
Scotts was started in 1868 by a Civil War veteran. They have a large research and development department that is responsible for such innovations as slow-release fertilizer. Their products are widely available.
You can spread this fertilizer before or just after planting your new centipede grass lawn. I would spread it before planting, personally. Then you are not walking on your newly planted seeds or sod.
Set your spreader to spread three pounds of fertilizer per 1,000 square feet. Walk back and forth spreading the fertilizer, then go back and forth again at a right angle to the original path.
Scotts recommends watering the lawn after spreading the fertilizer and waiting until the water has dried before re-entering the lawn. Repeat the application of fertilizer in 2-4 weeks, then switch to a maintenance fertilizer.
I would be careful using this product if your soil has a lot of phosphorus in it. While new lawns need phosphorus, centipede grass is very sensitive to too much phosphorus. It is always best to do a soil test before planting a new lawn so you know what you are dealing with.
For example, I live where there is lots of phosphorus and potassium in the soil, so Extension recommends just using a nitrogen fertilizer like Espoma Organic All Season Lawn Food 9-0-0 Natural & Organic Lawn Food instead of anything that has phosphorus and potassium in it, even for new lawns.
However, if you do your soil test and find you need phosphorus and potassium, this is an excellent product to use to establish your lawn. Make sure you know how large your lawn really is by measuring it first. You may need to get a bigger bag of this fertilizer if you have a big yard.
I think Scotts 21701 Turf Builder Starter Food for New Grass is moderately priced, and since the average yard is only 1,000 square feet, you probably need one bag for the front and one for the back.
- Specially formulated for new lawns
- Reasonably priced
- Need to make sure you need phosphorus and potassium before using
4. Ferti-Lome Centipede Weed and Feed 15-0-15 – Best Weed and Feed Fertilizer for Centipede Grass
Ferti-Lome Centipede Weed and Feed 15-0-15 is my pick for the best weed and feed fertilizer for centipede grass.
The NPK ratio is 15-0-15, and the fertilizer also contains boron, copper, iron, manganese, and zinc. The weed portion of the fertilizer contains Trimec, which is a combination of 2,4-D, Mecoprop, and Dicamba.
While this fertilizer is safe for centipede grass, do not use it on St. Augustine, or it will kill the grass. The fertilizer controls over 200 kinds of broadleaf weeds. Keep out of reach of children and pets.
Ferti-Lome is owned by VPG. They were formed in 1968 as a co-op that returns 100% of all earnings to the independently owned outlets that carry Ferti-Lome. Ferti-Lome is available only from independent dealers.
You need to do some preparation before using Ferti-Lome Centipede Weed and Feed 15-0-15 on your lawn.
- Mow your lawn one to two days before applying the fertilizer.
- Water your lawn the day before you are fertilizing.
- Set your spreader to apply 3.2-4.0 pounds of product per 1,000 square feet. Apply the fertilizer in the early morning when the lawn is wet with dew. If the lawn is dry, sprinkle with water to wet the lawn.
- Walk back and forth on your lawn, spreading the fertilizer. Turn a right angle and walk back and forth again. If the weeds are thick and older, you may have to reapply this product in 30 days.
- Do not let people or pets on the lawn until the dust has settled after spreading the fertilizer.
- Do not water the lawn for 24-48 hours to give the fertilizer time to be absorbed by the weeds. After 48 hours, water the lawn until the fertilizer is washed from the leaves of the plants in the lawn. When the lawn dries, it is safe for pets and people to enjoy it again.
This weed and feed fertilizer is designed especially for centipede grass. I do not like weed and feed products because the best times to treat weeds and the best times to fertilize are different. That means you are doing one or the other at the wrong time of year for the best results.
In addition, many weed and feed products do not contain enough herbicide to really kill the weeds. It is better to fertilize your centipede grass with the fertilizer of your choice to develop a thick lawn that will choke out weeds.
If there are trouble spots, spray herbicide directly on those spots either in the spring when they are actively growing or the late summer/early fall when they are storing energy from the leaves to the roots.
If you are determined to use a weed and feed product, this one is a good one. It is moderately expensive but will treat your lawn at least twice. Do not exceed two uses a year with this product, or you can kill your grass.
- Treat weeds and fertilize at once
- Developed for centipede lawns
- Weed and feed products are not very effective
5. Fertilome (10767) Centipede Lawn Fertilizer 15-0-15 – Best Overall Fertilizer for Centipede Grass
Fertilome (10767) Centipede Lawn Fertilizer 15-0-15 is my pick for the overall best fertilizer for centipede grass.
The NPK ratio is 15-0-15, and it also includes boron, copper, iron, manganese, and zinc. This fertilizer is designed especially for centipede grass lawns. This fertilizer is designed to be used in the spring when the weather begins to warm up and in the early fall.
The high iron content will make your lawn green, while the other nutrients will make it lush and thick. The pellets are polymer-coated sulfur-coated urea so that the nutrients are released gradually all spring and summer. Keep out of the reach of children and pets.
To apply, spread it at a rate of four pounds per 1,000 square feet. Water the lawn well after spreading the fertilizer. Do not re-enter the lawn until after the water dries from the lawn. Be sure you sweep any fertilizer that falls on the sidewalk, driveway, or other hardscape back into the lawn before you water it. The iron in this fertilizer will stain your hardscape otherwise.
I like Fertilome (10767) Centipede Lawn Fertilizer 15-0-15. It is designed just for centipede grass and has all the nutrients a centipede lawn needs. I only have to apply it twice a year.
The iron makes the centipede grass a bright apple green, which is the color of healthy centipede grass. The slow-release coating helps ensure that the nutrients do not leach out of sandy soil the way a faster release of nutrients can.
The 20-pound bag covers 5,000 square feet, so you can probably treat your lawn twice with it. The price is moderate but not excessive for a once-a-year purchase.
I picked this fertilizer over a liquid or organic fertilizer because it was designed just for centipede grass.
Do not use this fertilizer if you have lots of potassium in your soil. Centipede grass likes a lot of potassium, but even it can be poisoned with too much of the nutrient.
Do not apply the fertilizer more than twice a year, or you can cause centipede decline, a reaction to too much nitrogen. Used as directed, Fertilome (10767) Centipede Lawn Fertilizer 15-0-15 won’t burn your lawn because most of the nitrogen is released slowly.
I would wear gloves and a face mask while spreading this fertilizer to avoid touching or inhaling the dust. It is a skin and lung irritant.
- Made for centipede grass
- One bag treats most lawns twice
- Will stain concrete and stone if it gets wet
When Do I Fertilize My Centipede Grass?
When you fertilize your centipede grass is very important. Here are my suggestions.
Time of Day
Always fertilize before ten a.m. If you use a liquid fertilizer, this allows it to dry on the grass before nighttime. If you use a granular fertilizer, you usually have to water it after spreading it. Water in the morning, so your grass will dry before nighttime. Fungal infections are more likely to occur on grass that is wet at night.
Time of Year
Centipede grass is usually only fertilized twice a year. The first fertilization should be about three weeks after the grass turns green and starts growing. The second fertilization should be in late summer/early fall to prepare the grass for the winter. Because climates vary so much, it is difficult to list specific months for these events, but your county Extension Agent can give you the local dates to fertilize.
How Do I Fertilize Centipede Grass?
Centipede grass is usually fertilized using either a spreader or a hose-end sprayer. For a hose-end sprayer, attach the sprayer to the hose, turn on the water, and open the valve on the sprayer. Sweep the fertilizer from side to side as you walk backward across the lawn to cover all the grass.
For a granular fertilizer, put the fertilizer in the spreader, open the spreader gate, and walk back and forth from north to south spreading the fertilizer. After you have fertilized the entire lawn, walk back and forth from east to west, spreading the fertilizer. This ensures that you do not miss any grass, which can cause light spots in the lawn.
Each time you fertilize your centipede grass, you need to spread ½-1 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. To find out how much fertilizer that is, use this equation. Fertilizer amount in pounds=1/percent nitrogen as a decimal. For example, 5=1/.2. For a fertilizer that is twenty percent nitrogen, you need to spread five pounds of fertilizer on your lawn to get one pound of actual nitrogen.
Fertilize twice a year. In the spring, about three weeks after the grass gets green, give the grass ½-1 pound of actual nitrogen. In the fall, give the grass ½-1 pounds of actual nitrogen. Any time your grass turns yellow, spray it with iron to return it to the green color. The frequency of iron sprays depends on the soil. Sandy soils leach nutrients faster, so grass growing in sandy soil needs iron applications more often.
Some Tips For Fertilizing Centipede Grass
Here are some tips to get the most out of the fertilizer you spread on your centipede grass.
- Always wear long sleeves, long pants, closed-toed shoes, and waterproof gloves when handling fertilizer. Almost all fertilizer is a skin irritant, and you don’t want to get it on you.
- Wear a face mask when spreading dry fertilizer. If it irritates your skin, it will irritate your lungs.
- Keep kids and pets off the lawn until after you water it and the water dries on the lawn. This is especially crucial with weed and feed products.
- Always take a soil test in the early spring before beginning the fertilization program for the year. Follow the soil test recommendations for the spring fertilizer.
- Excessive nitrogen causes too much vegetative growth, lots of thatch, and the eventual death of the grass. Do not use more than the recommended fertilizer.
- Centipede grass will not get dark green no matter how much iron you put on it. The natural color is apple green.
- If your lawn turns yellow, spray it with iron (ferrous) sulfate (2 ounces in 5 gallons of water per 1,000 square feet). The grass will green up within 24 hours.
- Do not apply weed and feed products until at least three weeks after green-up.
- Centipede grass is sensitive to 2,4-D, so be careful to follow directions on the label when using a weed and feed product.
- In the spring, do not apply fertilizer to your lawn until the soil temperature at four inches deep is at least 65F and rising. You can get an inexpensive soil temperature gauge to measure the soil temperature at most places that sell gardening supplies.
- Do not fertilize centipede grass in the winter. It goes dormant and can’t absorb the nutrients.
- Don’t fertilize centipede grass in the summer, either. The grass may go heat dormant and will not be able to use the nutrients, and you may get too much nitrogen and cause the lawn to die.
Centipede grass does not like high phosphorus levels, so be careful which fertilizer you choose.
Simple Lawn Solutions Superior 15-0-15 Liquid Fertilizer Nitrogen & Potash Lawn Food is my pick for the best liquid fertilizer for centipede grass. Just attach the package to the hose and spray the fertilizer on the lawn.
I picked Espoma Organic All Season Lawn Food 9-0-0 Natural & Organic Lawn Food as the best organic fertilizer for your centipede lawn. The slow-release formula won’t burn your grass.
Scotts 21701 Turf Builder Starter Food for New Grass is my pick for the best starter fertilizer. Make sure your soil test shows you need phosphorus before you use this fertilizer on your new lawn.
My pick for the best weed and feed fertilizer is Ferti-Lome Centipede Weed and Feed 15-0-15. I don’t recommend weed and feed products, but at least this is designed specifically for centipede grass.
Fertilome (10767) Centipede Lawn Fertilizer 15-0-15 is my pick for the best overall fertilizer for centipede grass. Designed just for centipede grass, it is easy to use and moderately priced.